Tag Archives: cheese

Breakfast Strata with Sausage

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I fell in love the first time I had a breakfast strata.  I think the person serving it called it Breakfast Bread Pudding and it was similar but different from other egg dishes, and I found the combination of eggs, cubed bread, sausage and cheese wonderful. Another reason to love this dish is that most of the work is done the night before so in the morning it just has to be baked.  This is perfect if you are serving brunch to guests and would rather be sipping mimosa’s with them than whipping eggs in the kitchen.

This particular recipe is adapted from Ree Drummond’s The Pioneer Woman: Sausage-Kale Breakfast Strata.  I tweaked it just a bit and the results are delicious.  I made it for our family potluck Easter Brunch.  This makes a big 10×13 inch casserole, and could be halved, but it’s so good, and it reheats well so you may as well bake up the whole pan.

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Breakfast Strata with Sausage

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients

1 16 oz loaf of French or Italian bread (I used ciabatta)

1 lb. sweet Italian sausage

1 onion, quartered and thinly sliced

a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves finely minced

olive oil for cooking

about 10 oz. of greens, such as kale, spinach, chard or a combination, any thick stems removed.  (I used a 5 oz. bag of baby kale and a 5 oz. bag of spinach)

12 eggs

2.5 cups milk (I used 2% and whole would be great. I would not recommend all skim milk for this recipe)

6 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated

nonstick spray

salt and pepper

Optional: about 4 oz. grated Parmesan cheese for the top of the strata

Directions:

Cut the bread into cubes and set aside.

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Cook the sausage; squeeze it out of the casings if it is in links, break it apart as it cooks. Drain on paper towel.

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Wipe pan and heat a little olive oil to cook the onions.  Sprinkle in the rosemary when the onions are nearly done.

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If your greens are in bags, you can open the bag, fold it over and microwave-steam the greens right in the bag for 1 to 3 minutes.  If you are using greens sold in bunches or in bulk, chop coarsely and saute until just wilted.

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After allowing the cooked greens to cool, squeeze out excess moisture.

Beat together eggs and milk, and season with salt and pepper.

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Spray 10 x 13 inch casserole dish with nonstick spray and put in half the bread cubes, layer with half the greens, half the onions, half the sausage and half the Gruyere cheese.

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Layer the remaining bread cubes, greens, onions, sausage and remaining Gruyere.

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Slowly pour the egg and milk mixture over the casserole, moving around to get the whole casserole covered.  If desired, sprinkle with optional grated Parmesan cheese.

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Cover casserole with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator overnight.

Remove casserole from the fridge 30 minutes before baking.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees,  Remove plastic wrap from the dish and replace it with foil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.  Remove foil and continue baking until top is golden brown and becoming crisp around the edges.

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This would make a lovely Sunday night supper. Thank you for stopping  by.

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Rosemary Gruyere Crackers with Sea Salt

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While Rem and I were on vacation, we enjoyed trying out some new recipes. These tasty little nibbles are from The Smitten Kitchen cookbook and they’re delicious. Deb Perelman calls these crisps but I think cracker is more clear.  They’re really a grown up Cheez-It.

I made a second batch earlier this week to take to a party and they were a big hit. When I made them at Sea Ranch I only had a plain pizza cutter  to cut the dough but I used a fluted pastry wheel to cut them at home which makes for a prettier, more decorative edge.  Sadly, I didn’t get any pictures of those ones.

Rosemary Gruyere and Sea Salt Crackers (or Crisps)

From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, Deb Perelman

1.5 cups coarsely grated Gruyere cheese (6 oz.)
4 tablespoons (or 1/2 stick) butter
3/4 cup all purpose flour plus more for rolling out
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary (I think I used closer to 2 teaspoons)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt plus more for sprinkling (I didn’t add any salt to the dough, just sprinkled it on top)
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Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine ingredients in food processor pulse and until mixtures becomes coarse, craggy crumbs (I thought it looked kind of like cooked cous-cous).

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Dump it onto a big piece of plastic wrap, press it together into a ball, then flatten into loose, thick square.
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Chill for 15 to 20 minutes so it is slightly firmed up.
On floured surface roll out dough to about 1/8 inch thick.  The shape doesn’t matter.
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Cut into about a 1 inch by 1 inch grid using a fluted pastry wheel.  You can also cut with a pizza cutter a knife.
Dock each cracker in the center with a skewer or knife point.
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Dab with water and sprinkle with sea salt. When I baked my second batch I used flaky Maldon sea salt which worked beautifully.
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Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until light brown on ends (I put parchment paper on baking sheets)
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Put baking sheets on rack to cool.
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These keep well in a cookie tin.
Thanks for stopping by.

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Chicken, Spinach, and Pasta with Creamy Feta Sauce

Bowl of Pasta

I wanted pasta for dinner the other night because I’m still eating a bit cautiously after oral surgery last week and the idea of tender pasta was appealing.  Actually, I love pasta and I’m happy to eat it even when my mouth is fine.

We had a rotisserie chicken in the fridge and a box of spinach in the freezer, so I did a quick search online for recipes using chicken, pasta and spinach and found this recipe on Healthy. Delicious.  Of course you could cook up a chicken breast or two and start with a big bag of fresh spinach but for me this recipe is about a yummy and easy dish with stuff I had on hand.

Chicken, Spinach and Pasta with Creamy Feta Sauce

Adapted from Healthy Delicious

Ingredients:

8 ounces pasta – a big, chunky shape worked well

3 tablespoon butter, divided

3 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup half and half

1 1/2 cups milk – I used 2%  because that’s what we have in the fridge

4 ounces feta cheese

2 cups shredded chicken

1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach – thawed with moisture squeezed out

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

zest from one lemon

Pasta with Chicken and Spinach

I was rushing with the photos so I completely forgot to show the butter, milk and flour.  Or the oregano.  Oops.  I wanted to share this recipe here because it looked like a winner, but I also wanted to get dinner made and to sit down and eat it. The lemon zest I decided to add later, so I don’t feel bad that I didn’t take a picture of the lemon.  Sorry.

Directions:

Cook the pasta as directed on the package.  While it is cooking, proceed with the sauce.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring for a few minutes, so it is a nice, toasty color.

Put the half and half and milk in a microwave safe bowl or large, glass measuring cup and heat.  My microwave isn’t super powerful and 1 minute was enough so the mixture was warmish.  It could have used another 20 seconds.  You don’t want it to boil, just to warm it up before adding to the butter/flour roux.

Add the warm milk mixture to the saucepan and cook for 5 minutes or until it has thickened a bit, stirring frequently.

The pasta, meanwhile, should be about done.  When pasta is done, drain in a colander, and return to the pot.  Toss with remaining tablespoon of butter.

Stir chicken and spinach into pot with pasta.

When sauce is cooked, remove from heat.  Stir in crumbled feta cheese, oregano, chili powder, black pepper and lemon zest.

Pour sauce into pot with pasta and stir to combine.

Serve.

Delicious!

Creamy Feta-Sauced pasta

All the flavors and textures worked well together.  If I’d been a little more organized, I would have saved some of the lemon zest for garnish and made prettier pictures, but I wasn’t and I didn’t.  It was very good and something I’m sure I’ll make again.  I hope you give it a try.

Thanks for your visit.

 

 

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Grown-Up Mac & Cheese

Big Pan of Pasta

Two of my nieces mentioned “grown-up mac n cheese” on Facebook in the last few weeks and after the second mention, I wanted to know what it was.  I knew what it wasn’t: little elbow pasta with some milk, some butter and some orange powder.

They both wrote that it was put together with whatever looks good.  For example: Leah recently made it with aged Gouda and chanterelles.  Miriam mentioned Gruyere, smoked Gouda, Parmesan, broccoli, mushrooms and bacon.  Yum!

I decided on some guidelines for my own version: I would use an interesting shape of pasta, pick out some really good cheese (not the conveniently grated stuff – this is the time to grate your own), put in some vegetables and why not add some sausage?  I grocery shopped before I got Miriam’s recipe with bacon as an ingredient.  The only thing about that is that I think bacon can become soft in a casserole.  But maybe if I put the bacon on top I can get good bacon flavor and keep the bacon crispy. This time I made it with sausage.

In the meantime, this is the recipe I adapted from Miriam Faw who adapted it from Alton Brown.  Use it as a springboard to make your own version of Grown-Up Mac & Cheese. Or if your a purist who thinks adding anything much past macaroni and cheddar cheese to a pan of Mac & Cheese is wrong, call it “Baked Pasta”.  Because it’s really yummy and worth making.

Mac & Cheese Ingrediments

Miriam’s recipe called for 8 oz. of pasta but I decided to make a pound of pasta so that Rem and I could each have our own version (mine has cauliflower and mushrooms), so keep in mind my pictures show a larger batch of pasta.  I’m writing out the recipe for one 2-quart casserole.

Grown-Up Mac & Cheese

Ingredients:

8 oz. pasta (I used campanelle pasta, little bells, that I think look like little trumpets, but how about rotelle or wagon wheels? Or try some cavatappi pasta – ridged, corkscrew shapes)

2-3 cups greens such as spinach, kale and/or chard, stems removed, coarsely chopped

1/2 lb. mild Italian sausage

1 yellow onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets

6 oz. mushrooms, sliced

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

3 cups milk

1 large egg

12 ounces cheese, combination such as smoked Gouda, Jarlsberg, Gruyere, and Parmesan, shredded

1/2 teaspoon paprika

a pinch of nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

Optional Topping:

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

3 tablespoons melted butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.  When it is nearly done, drop the greens in with the pasta.  They just need a minute or two.  Drain the pasta with the greens.

Pasta with Greens

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pan, cook the sausage.

Browning Sausage

Remove when done, leave the grease in the pan and sauté onions a few minutes, then add cauliflower and sauté a few minutes more, then add mushrooms and garlic and saute until everything is tender and cauliflower is golden brown.

Sliced Mushrooms

(Note: I roasted the cauliflower in the oven because I intended to use half in this recipe and have half for snacking on.  If you want to go that route, put the cauliflower florets on an oiled backing sheet and bake in a 400 oven for about 25 minutes until it looks kind of toasty and is tender.  Another options is to drop the cauliflower into the boiling pasta pot a few minutes before the greens)
Roasted Cauliflower

Remove all veggies from the pan and set aside.

Wipe the pan with a paper towel and melt the butter in it, over medium-low heat.

Whisk in the flour and cook for about five minutes, stirring constantly.

Add Flour to Butter

Stir in the milk and seasonings. Simmer for ten minutes until thickened.

Whisk the egg in a small bowl or measuring cup and stir in some of the hot bechamel to temper it.  Stir this mixture into remaining sauce in pan.

Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Add salt and pepper.

Grated Cheese

Cheese into Sauce

Fold the pasta into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Before baking

If desired, combine panko crumbs with melted butter and sprinkle over casserole.

 Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Closer Mac & Cheese

The days are shorter and even though we’ve been having sunny weather, it is colder at night and this delicious pasta will provide all the warmth and comfort of the macaroni and cheese of your youth.

Pear Candles

I’ve heard that my other niece, Caitlin, also prepares an awesome mac and cheese, so maybe I’ll try her recipe another time.

Pasta and Salad

Speaking of awesome recipes, I’m so proud of Miriam!  She entered a cooking contest on The Sam Livecast which is a cross between a radio talk show and a TV cooking show, filmed in Sam’s home in San Diego.  The whole family was thrilled when she was picked to cook her recipe, Lamb and Feta Burgers, on the show.

The eight contestants were paired up and they did an episode with each pair.  I don’t know how many entries they had for the contest, “Cook Your Way to Kauai”, but Miriam got on and you can see the episode here!  At the end of all the rounds, the winner will earn a trip, along with a guest, to Kauai with the Sam Livecast team.

OK, you should still watch the episode, but she WON her first round and went to the semi-finals. In this round they had to feature eggs and Miriam only knew two days ahead of time.  She prepared giant ravioli (made from won ton wrappers), stuffed with a ricotta, herbed goat cheese, Parmesan and raw egg yolk (it cooks just enough while the pasta is cooking) with a brown butter, bacon and sage sauce. She practiced her recipe all of ONE TIME before cooking it ON CAMERA on the show.  Did I mention they have 30 minutes to fix their dish? Whew.  Watch her semi-final here.

Have you watched it yet?  Because she won that round too!  For the Grand Finale, still in only 30 minutes, they had to feature fish and pineapple, no shellfish and no stir fry.  Miriam prepared Goat Cheese Crusted Halibut and Pineapple-Cilantro Risotto. Watch the final here to see if she won.

I have not yet tried any of these delicious looking and sounding dishes, but here is a link with all the finalists recipes for you to try yourself.

Thank you for stopping by.

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Chicken Taco Salad

Chicken Taco Salad

Saturday lunch: Chicken Taco Salad.

On most Saturdays, after walking with my sister and the pups, I take Molly back home and fix lunch for my mom and I.  I come up with something from what I find in her fridge – usually some variety of salad.

This week, we were still celebrating Mom’s birthday. Since there were five of us for lunch, I wanted to fix something special.  I saw this recipe on The Pioneer Woman.  I’d also made this dry rub the day before (from Smitten Kitchen) and I had some of the spice mixture left over, so decided to use that on the chicken.

This isn’t really going to be a recipe.  Check out those links if you want more specifics.

Ingredients Chicken Taco Salad

Chicken Taco Salad

lettuce – I used Green Leaf

boneless, skinless chicken breasts (two would have been enough but this package had three)

taco seasoning or dry rub mixture

1 can of beans or corn, rinsed and drained (better yet, use fresh corn, as in the Chicken Taco Salad on The Pioneer Woman site)

A bunch of grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1 avocado; peeled, seeded and cubed

red bell pepper, diced

green onion, thinly sliced

grated cheese

cilantro, roughly chopped

tortilla chips

Dressing:

sour cream

salsa

BBQ Sauce (I was using homemade, but bottled is just fine)

fresh lime juice (use half a lime for juice, the other half cut into wedges for garnish

Cooking Chicken Breasts

You want to get the chicken cooking.  Pat the pieces dry with paper towel than sprinkle with seasoning.  Spray pan with nonstick spray and cook on medium heat until cooked through (cut into a piece to check for doneness).

Shred the lettuce and put into a large serving bowl then just keep adding the other ingredients.

bowl of lettuce

Building the Salad

Once your chicken is cooked, cut it in strips and then into cubes.

Chicken Breast

Add the chicken to the bowl and toss together.  I like to serve the tortilla chips separately so they don’t get soggy.  I had the cilantro on the side because some people don’t like it. But it can be added to the dressing or tossed in the bowl with all the other ingredients if you prefer.

Taco Salad

For the dressing, combine about a half cup of sour cream, a few spoonfuls of salsa, a splash of barbecue sauce and a squirt or two of lime juice in a jar and shake to combine.  Put in a small serving bowl and let everyone dress their own serving of salad.

Chips can be combined in with the salad (my choice) or eaten on the side.

Serving of Taco Salad

Thank you for your visit.

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Pesto

I love pesto.  I’ve had a few simple variations and I love those too.  Basil + garlic + nuts + cheese + oil is such a winner that I haven’t strayed very far from the classic, but I would probably also be very happy with other versions.

Lucky for me I was walking with my mom a few weeks ago and just when we were going back up the driveway her neighbor said she was cutting back her basil plants.  “Would you like some?”, she asked us.  Before mom had a chance to speak I was through the garden gate.

An armload of aromatic basil and a few heads of garlic later and I knew a batch of pesto was in the making. I’ve since polished off that first batch and made a second one today because I enjoyed the first so much.

Pesto is classically made with fresh basil, pine nuts, Parmesan or Romano cheese, garlic, olive oil and salt.  Some people like and use more garlic.  I didn’t have enough pine nuts so added some toasted, slivered almonds to this batch.  I’ve seen it with lots of oil and less of everything else, but I prefer a thick pesto with lots of texture and lots of all the goodies that make it so delicious. A colleague mentioned a recipe her brother had made with plenty of heavy cream.  Sounds lovely and very decadent.  Here is my recipe.

Pesto

Ingredients:

1/2 cup pine nuts – (you can substitute almonds, walnuts or other nuts for all or part of the pine nuts)

1 to 2 cloves garlic – one good sized clove is plenty for my taste buds

2 to 3 packed cups basil leaves – basil in the store and farmer’s market comes in all different size bunches and to make a batch of pesto you will probably need 2 or 3 bunches.  My first batch probably had 4 cups of leaves.

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3/4 cup olive oil

salt to taste (the saltiness of the cheese and your own personal preference will determine how much salt you add – taste first and add less than you think to start – you can always add more later but it is difficult to fix if you put in too much in the beginning)* see note further down

Directions:

I don’t always take the time to toast the nuts but it does add a nice layer of flavor.  The last batch I made was with already toasted almonds.  Toast nuts in a dry pan on medium heat, watching carefully and stirring often to keep from scorching.  They go quickly from not quite toasted to burnt, so keep a careful watch.

Put nuts and peeled garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade and process until the nuts and garlic are finely chopped.

Add basil and pulse until the leaves are finely chopped and mixed with the nuts and garlic.

Add cheese and pulse to combine.

With processor running, add oil in a steady stream, stopping to scrape down sides of processor bowl a few times as needed.

Taste and if desired add salt and pulse to combine.

Note about salt: I made a batch of pesto recently and put salt in with the nuts in the beginning.  Not a great idea.  The particular brand of Parmesan cheese I had was very salty and when I took a taste of the finished pesto it was extremely salty!  I didn’t have any more basil but I did have some fresh parsley in the fridge, and more nuts in the cupboard.  I added parsley to the food processor along with another quarter cup of nuts and the results were really wonderful.  It was still on the salty side but it is a sauce that I use often but with a light hand.  This “rescued” batch was really good and was still bursting with flavor.  I couldn’t detect the parsley and I didn’t have to throw out the yummy sauce I’d made.

(I wish you could smell this stuff – it is so fragrant and so delicious!)
 

The resulting Pesto Sauce should be pureed but with some texture to it.  I understand it freezes well but can’t advise you on that as I just scrape it into a jar and keep it in the fridge, stirring it into pasta, topping pasta and pizza with it and dressing salads and other vegetables with pesto alone, stirred into mayo or hummus or shaking it in a jar with lemon juice and olive oil.

One of summers prodigious growers is zucchini.  I sliced several slender squash from the Farmer’s Market thin using a mandoline slicer from Benriner, than sauteed them and topped the resulting ribbons with fresh pesto.  Delicious.

Thank you for coming by.  Thanks for the ongoing interest and support – this is my 200th blog post!

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Muffin Cup Quiche

I’ve been doing some Easter crafting lately, using blown eggs and empty eggshells filled with candy.  So I needed to make something with the raw eggs.   Scrambled eggs are one easy answer but I wanted a little more pizazz.

Making small quiche in a muffin pan was what I decided to do.  Before I go on, I have to tell you that these really aren’t the best recipe for using up a bunch of eggs.  They have a higher crust-to-filling ratio then a standard full-size quiche would have so if you are looking to use up a bunch of eggs, make a standard quiche.  But these are a nice size, look and taste great and freeze well.

Oh, and the other thing I should mention: I’m not really giving you a recipe.  Just some suggestions.

Other ideas for using up eggs include a bread pudding-like baked French Toast, Dutch Baby (a puffy baked pancake) or a strata made with spinach and cheese.

Muffin Cup Quiche

Frozen Crust – defrosted according to package directions (or use homemade crust)

Nonstick Spray

Various Vegetables for filling– such as asparagus, mushrooms, broccolini, chard, onion

Cheese – cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan and feta are all good choices

Eggs

Salt and Pepper

Herbs or Spices if desired

Milk

Bacon (optional) cooked until crisp and drained

Set oven temperature to 375.

For these little quiche I used frozen dough from Trader Joe’s but you could use your favorite crust recipe. After it was thawed, I unrolled it and while it was still covered in plastic I gave it a quick roll with a rolling pin to smooth out some cracks and make it just a bit bigger.  Peel plastic off dough.

Spray the muffin tins with nonstick spray and use a glass or round cookie or biscuit cutter to cut circles out of the dough.

Press dough circles into muffin tin.

Prepare your filling: for one batch I used mushrooms and asparagus with cheddar and Parmesan cheeses.  The second batch was a combination of broccolini, red onion, Swiss cheese and bacon.  Yummy!

Trim the vegetables and slice or chop into pieces. Heat a pan and spray with nonstick spray.  Saute vegetables until tender.

Dice or shred or crumble or slice up some cheese.  Put a bit of cheese in each muffin cup.  Add a few pieces each of mushroom and asparagus (or whatever vegetables you are using) to each muffin cup.

Beat eggs together and season as desired. I just used salt and pepper.  I had a whole bunch of eggs from my craft projects so I measured 1.5 cups of beaten egg.  (This was too much and I could probably have done with 1 to 1.25 cups – it will depend on both the size of the eggs and the size of the muffin cups.)  Add milk – I used 3/4 of a cup of milk.  This was enough egg and milk for 24 muffin cup quiche.

Scoop egg and milk mixture into a glass measuring cup and pour into  muffin cups.  Fill cups about 2/3 full.  Sprinkle additional cheese on top or add small pieces of cooked bacon to each cup.

Bake about 18 to 22 minutes or until puffy and set.  It will depend on the size of your muffin pan.

Each crust was enough to make 12 circles of dough (I rerolled the scraps for the last few) and I refrigerated the second disc of dough and made the second batch a day later.  The quiche froze well in zippered freezer bags and I could reheat a few in the toaster oven.  I really love crust so I particularly like this size quiche.  A few quiche with a salad and dinner is ready.  It was great having these in the freezer and I made enough to share some with my parents.

Thanks for the visit.

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